Sometimes, I work from home. And when I do, I have a routine I try to stick to.
Wake up around 5. Get a cup of coffee. Meditate for about 10 minutes. Crank out 30 push-ups. (Don’t ask me why I do 30 push-ups. I have no idea why I picked that number.) Take a showier. Get dressed. Set up my laptop on our dining table. Start getting a little bit of work done.
And then, everything goes to hell in a blaze of mean talk, pushing, shoving, crying and yelling that includes so much admonishment, punctuated by the word “WHY?” over and over and over.
This is what happens when my wife and I ask our six-and-eight-year-old daughters to do one of the most-basic, run-on-autopilot tasks that anyone can do no matter what their age is: brush their teeth. Or, rather, I should this is what happens when we tell our daughters to go into the bathroom and brush their teeth together.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has more than one kid. If you put the two (or, God help you of you have three or more) together in any situation that requires them to be in the same location for longer than, say, 37 seconds, there is minimum 100-percent chance they will end up in fight that is only slightly more brutal that what took place during the Battle of the Bulge.
For whatever reason, and I don’t know if its genetic, the result of how they are brought up, or demons that creep into their brains when they are asleep, but siblings just have the inherent need to fight with each other when they are young.
If they sit together in a car, they end up fighting. If one of them wants to watch re-runs of “Full House” (our eight-year-old), the other one wants to watch Sesame Street (our six-year-old). And they end up fighting. If one of them gets their hands on a small bag of Chee-tos, the other one just has to tattle on her sister about why she got something and she didn’t.
And they end up fighting.
And one of the places in our house that’s a scene of such sibling-on-sibling crime on an almost daily basis is in our guest bathroom. This is where our daughters take their baths, use the toilet, often get dressed and brush their teeth. And it is where they inevitably start the day with such a round of crying, whining and all-around complaining that it’s amazing none of our neighbors have ever called Social Services on us.And they end up fighting.
Of course getting them into the bathroom to brush their teeth can’t occur without at least a dozen different requests, pleas and outright demands for girls to just get going. Cereal sits at the table uneaten, and getting soggy, for 20 minutes before they’ll get up off the sofa and slurp down their Frosted Flakes. And that’s if we can get them to do even that.
The other morning our six-year-old, Little Sis, threw a tantrum that made one of Donald Trump’s Twitter rants look like the measured tones of a smooth-jazz radio host. The reason? Because she didn’t get Eggo waffles for breakfast two days in a row. She acted like the peanut butter and strawberry jam on toast, which is normally one of her favorites, was coated in cigar ashes. This kid definitely has a lot of First World Problems.
And when I do make those waffles, you would think Little Sis would devour them the send I put the plate in front of her, right? Well, you shouldn’t take that bet. This kid will loll about on the sofa for 20 minutes, as the syrup, waffles and often whipped cream and chocolate chips, too) coagulate into some kind of cold, sticky shellac. When she finally gets up to her plate, the eating process takes about another 20 minutes as she moves at about the same pace as the Mendenhall Glacier.
After much prodding and begging on my part, she will finish her breakfast. But, then the whole scene starts again as we implore her to get dressed. This is where the real fun starts because it’s when she and her sister inevitably head for the bathroom and begin their morning version of the Thrilla In Manila.
“STOP IT!” is the standard cry from our eight-year-old, Maddo, who lets it loose when Little Sis does something as awful as, oh, say, grab her toothbrush. This will then be met with Little Sis shouting something along the lines of “NO! NO! NO!” And then there will be a loud thud of someone getting pushed against the door. The cries and whines go back and forth for a while until either my wife or I decide our nerves can’t take it any more and we go in to separate the combatants. This, or course, involves one of us raising our voice to a level that can scare dogs as we pull one or the other kid out and make her start putting her shoes on.
Because that process will itself take at least another half-dozen episodes of asking, cajoling and pleading that, if we are lucky, will result in one kid getting both shoes on the correct feet.
By the time we get into my truck for the half-mile drive to the girls’ school, we are a mess of scowls, frowns and bad attitudes. This is not the Brady Bunch, or even that family from “Full” and/or “Fuller House” that my kids seem to worship. Then, to my astonishment, the girls personalities will flip, because they turn into the laughing, smiling adorable angels that we parents think they will always be when we first bring them home from the hospital.
When you have two kids like this, you have to choose you battles wisely. Not everything is worth fighting over. I only wish they would choose not to hold a title fight in the bathroom every morning. Because I’m usually the one who feels like he’s been pummeled in the end.